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Pic: Iconic plaque honoring famous Civil War military horse removed by university

Retired Governor's Horse Guard Captain Gary F. Brooks, 72, walks through the 10 horses grazing in Avon. (Douglas Hook / Hartford Courant/TNS)
August 14, 2023

Washington & Lee University, an institution deeply embedded with historical significance, recently made the decision to remove a plaque honoring General Robert E. Lee’s iconic steed, Traveller.

“It appears that Washington and Lee University is not only cancelling Lee but even his horse.” Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Chair of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, tweeted. “Traveler was originally put down for untreatable tetanus but will now be put down again by equally untreatable cancel culture.”

The plaque, which graced Traveller’s gravesite outside the historic Lee Chapel, celebrated the horse’s unwavering loyalty throughout war and peace, as indicated by its inscription: “The last home of Traveller. Through war and peace the faithful, devoted and beloved horse of General Robert Lee. Placed by the Virginia Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy.”

Last month, plaques from the room where Lee was inaugurated as the university’s president in 1865 were also taken down.

“Traveller was a beloved part of the campus story,” Kamron Spivey, president of Students for Historical Preservation, stated. “People like to hear tales about animals because they do no wrong. That is how Traveller has been immortalized in campus history. He was a faithful horse whose beauty and loyalty Robert E. Lee said would inspire poets. Until this month, very few people seemed bothered by the horse.”

Spivey voiced concern over the university’s attempt to “secretly hide their history.” He emphasized the importance of retaining original markers to truly contextualize a site’s historical significance.

According to The Daily Wire, the institution’s legacy stretches back to 1749, with its founding as Augusta Academy. By 1796, facing financial turmoil, the school received a generous donation of 100 shares of James River Canal Company stock from President George Washington. The endowment still forms part of the university’s financial backbone today.

READ MORE: Video: Virginia removes Richmond’s Robert E. Lee statue, its largest Confederate monument

As a gesture of gratitude, the institution was renamed Washington Academy, embodying Washington’s desire “to promote Literature in this rising Empire and to encourage the Arts.”

Later, in 1813, the name evolved to Washington College. After Lee’s service as the college president following the Civil War, where he introduced various courses and endorsed student self-governance, the institution was posthumously renamed in his honor to Washington and Lee University in 1870.

However, the legacy of the university’s different names is now viewed as controversial by proponents of cancel culture.

The University’s Board of Trustees wrote in 2021, “The association with our namesakes can be painful to those who continue to experience racism, especially to African Americans, and is seen by some as an impediment to our efforts to attract and support a diverse community. For others, our name is an appropriate recognition of the specific and significant contributions each man made directly to our institution.”

This news article was partially created with the assistance of artificial intelligence and edited and fact-checked by a human editor.